PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hazel Knits

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I am a sucker for hand-dyed yarns.  The colors, the vibrancy, the blends!  The frequently unexpected way it works up (although that is not always pleasant, as Jean noted today)!  The joy of watching each new color appear as you stitch.  It is, not to be too much of an aesthete, a transcendent form of knitting.

I have plenty of favorite dyers:  Three Irish Girls (I think I've put one of Sharon's children through college),  Nerd Girl Yarns, Sweet Georgia, the Verdant Gryphon (her yarns are so squishy!), Dragonfly Fibers.  They all do fascinating things with color blends and produce yarn that is fantastic to work with.

But today...today I found some of the most beautiful semi-sold yarns I have ever beheld.

Hazel Knits.

Image (c) hazel knits.  Artisan Sock in Nickel.

Image (c) hazel knits.  Filigree lace in Jay Blue.

I am sadly Cold Sheep (more on that soon), and cannot buy any of these lovelies until April.  But you should.  You absolutely should, and then come back and tell me about how pretty it is so that I can live vicariously through your yarn acquisition.  Because this is seriously the most gorgeous yarn I've seen in ages.

Monday, January 28, 2013


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I have reached the point one reaches with all toe-up socks, in which it becomes clear that there is no possible way any human being can possibly have a foot that long and skinny.

One despairs, wondering if those hours of knitting have been in vain. 

And then, one remembers negative ease and is merry again.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013


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I have a philosophical question for the interwebz.  What is it about knitting (or fiber arts in general) that prompts people to become so obsessed with it?

If we define a casual knitter as someone who knows how to knit, but only owns one or two sets of needles, only buys yarn when they have a specific project in mind, and only makes a scarf or blanket every once in a while, when the mood strikes them, then I can count the number of casual knitters I know on one finger.

Every other knitter I know (which is a lot, if you define 'know' in the loosest, most online-inclusive sense of the word) is genuinely obsessed with the subject, process, history, and practice of knitting.  We laugh at knitters who call the two skeins of yarn they bought this weekend their "stash."  We spend hours agonizing over whether we ought to spend the extra money for the Addi click set, or if the Knitter's Pride set will serve our purpose.  We compulsively refresh the Manos del Uruguay page on Webs to see if any new stock has been added.  We blog, we podcast, we stitch and bitch, we chat in Ravelry's forums, all to share our great love of and obsession with two pointy sticks and some string which may or may not have come from an animal.


I think it can be assumed, even without scientific study, that knitting must stimulate dopamine output in our brains, giving our reward pathways a feedback loop of awesome.  But what is it about knitting that causes us to have that reaction?  The tactile nature of the fiber?  The math involved in patterning and shaping (I wouldn't think that would be particularly pleasing to my brain, at least)?  The sounds of clicking needles?  The colors?  The repetition?  Or is it all of the above?

What causes people who can be perfectly rational about all facets of their life to, within a few weeks of picking up knitting, crocheting, spinning, or any other fiber art, suddenly be dreaming in fiber and planning their career as a designer/yarn-dyer/shepherd/yarn store owner/etc?

I don't know.

But I sure am glad I'm not alone.
Monday, January 7, 2013

1955 Petal Sweater

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Picture (c) Bex.
From Coats & Clark's Sweaters are Fashion News.  Originally knit in Red Heart Super Fingering.

The minute I saw this pattern, I knew I HAD to make it for my grandmother, who has always been a classic, late '50s/early '60s style person.  Plus, she looks fabulous in red.  And I was able to find the booklet easily, at Vintage Knits.  So it had to happen.

Just one problem.  My grandmother lives in Texas, and is very hot natured, so a 100% wool yarn was not going to cut it for this project.  Enter Knitpicks Comfy fingering, which is 75% Cotton/25% Acrylic.  No ability to grab or hold its shape (this will be important later), but fabulously cool and comfy.  I love this yarn.  Does Knitpicks make a bad yarn?  The color is much richer and bluer than the called-for Red Heart, but I was able to get gauge on the first try (that NEVER happens to me), so it seemed like a great substitute (and would have been if I had been more thoughtful from the beginning).

The construction is different than anything I’ve knitted before.  You knit the yoke from the top down, and then knit each subsequent piece flat, and then the side and underarm seams are worked in one go.  It’s actually fairly brilliant, as it reduces the likelihood of that funky bunched seam at the base of the armscye.

However, it is clear that the author wrote and worked up only one or two of the sizes listed, and just did the math out for the rest of the sizes without considering the implications of some of the instructions at the largest size.  For example, if the yoke increases for the largest size were followed as written, the separation for the arms would wind up somewhere around a normal human's mid-waist.  So I doubled up on them, and wound up with something close enough to correct to be serviceable.  Similarly for the arms, if you kept knitting until you reached the appropriate number of decreases, the arms would hit your knees.

As an aside, one thing this sweater has taught me is to appreciate my tininess.  While not overall a petite person, I have a petite top half, which comes in handy for not having to knit for ages just to make a sweater.  Since this sweater is intended for my not-so-petite Grandmother, I made the largest size.  Epic amounts of stockinette, ya’ll.  Epic.

And now for the bad news.  After knitting the whole thing, I came to the realization that a) I had twelve buttonholes, and b) cotton/acrylic does not create the sturdiest of fabrics.  Once washed and blocked, my button placket resembled a particularly viscious roller-coaster ride, full of ripples and wobbles.  No amount of wiggling, tugging, or pinning was going to get that placket study enough to support twelve buttons.

I've already folded the placket under in this shot,
but you can see the wobbles towards the bottom of the sweater.

The only solution I could come up with was to tack down the placket on the inside of the sweater (it unfortunately can't be removed because it's knit as a part of the body), and then pick up and knit a new, denser placket on smaller needles.  Rather than going down just one size for the cuff ribbing and the button bands, I went down two.  After some trial and error, I picked up 138 sts along the inner edge of the original button band and knit 8 rows garter stitch with the yarn held double.  This gave me a much more attractive and sturdy band.  I also reduced the buttonholes to 7, so as to weigh the front down significantly less.  

I also found that the cuffs of the sleeves were too droopy, so I pulled them back out, decreased down to  61 stitches, and then knit them back on the smaller needles as well.

I still need to go back and sew down the original button-bands more neatly, and attach the seven buttons, and then this sucker will finally be finished.  As beautiful as it will be when it's done, I can't wait to have it out of my house.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Plans for 2013

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I don't do resolutions.  Partly because I don't keep them and partly because my "new year" starts in July, with the academic calendar.

I do, however, do goals.  Not in a life-coach, reach for the stars kind of way, but in a "here's what I want to accomplish" kind of way.  This year, there are four.

1) Learn to sew.
Luckily, I have a wonderful mother who is talented in this area, and can teach me.  We're planning on one lesson a month, with the end result of making Vintage Vogue 2902.  Either that or a body for poor Hetty...

2) Exercise more.
This is perilously close to a resolution, but it has nothing to do with weight loss or body image.  It has everything to do with how much better you feel about yourself when you get off your backside and do something.  So I'm going to.  This is obviously the goal I'm the least excited about meeting, but the one I think will do me the most immediate good.

3)  Knit only from my queue.
I started by saying I would knit half my queue in 2013.  But then I actually looked at my queue and realized there are 65 items on it, and that even at my best pace I probably can't knit 32 items in a year (notice how I say probably, like I'm not completely convinced - my best total is 30, but that was in the halcyon days when I only made washcloths and socks).  So I've dialed it back.  I joined the Ravelry group - Knit the Queue - and have matched 70% of my stash to projects (There were spreadsheets involved, as well as gratuitous use of Ravelry's advanced pattern search function).  I'm going to get through what I get through, which will help with my stashdown.  My ultimate goal is to get to the point where instead of buying/being given yarn, matching it to pattern through sheer necessity/force of will, and then ending up with a closet full of random accessories and oddly colored squeaky acrylic sweaters, I will buy yarn for the patterns I already know I want to make.  This should help with Cold Sheep, as well, now that I'm back on the sheep after a spectacular three month yarn-buying binge.

4) Move in with the Boy and get married.
Not necessarily in that order.  And sooner, rather than later.  This long-distance relationship stuff is for the birds.